Confirm That the Design Is Implemented
Before you start the kanban, make sure that you have implemented the kanban design. To make sure you're ready, verify the following items:
Are the kanban signals completed?
Are the rules posted?
Is the visual management information posted?
Don't make a half-hearted attempt at implementation. Make sure these items are complete. Make sure that everything is posted and looks as originally intended.
Having the design implemented simplifies the process of changing from the current scheduling system to the new kanban system. It also makes the training portion considerably easier since the operators and supervisors can readily connect the implemented kanban with the design presented during training.
If you implement the kanban without all the pieces in place, then make sure that everyone knows about the future additions and changes. Also, make sure you have a work-around plan to handle deficiencies and have a firm date for completing the implementation. Finally, you must gain buy-in and support to manage the work-around from the associates . (In many cases, the simple act of open and honest communication coupled with delivery on the promised date will build the teamwork that makes the kanban successful.)
Confirm That Training Is Completed
Training is another key to implementing the design. Although the training content was covered extensively in the last chapter, it bears repeating that without training the associates will never take ownership of the kanban. Make sure you schedule and conduct the training. Also, make sure this training takes place on all affected shifts with all the participants production operators, production supervisors, material handlers, etc. Finally, set up a dry run of the kanban to identify any shortcomings of the design and to make sure everyone understands the process.
Check the Inventories
Checking the inventories is the very last step before going live on kanban scheduling. In this step, determine whether your inventory level will support the transition to kanban scheduling. This assessment will determine whether you have enough inventory to let the system run on its own when you start the kanban.
If you have sufficient inventory, then you are ready to start. Stick to your original schedule and implement the kanban scheduling system. Make sure that everyone knows what the cutover date is and then do it. Congratulations!
If you do not have sufficient inventory, then develop an inventory plan that will get you to the required level. If you must slip the implementation date, then pick a realistic new start date and get started building the necessary inventory.
To develop the inventory assessment, conduct a physical count of all the proposed kanban part numbers . Next compare the inventory to the kanban quantities to determine whether you're at red, yellow, or green levels for the various production parts . Finally, determine whether the kanban as designed would operate properly at the current inventory levels. (Properly means in normal operational mode without scheduling intervention.) Once you have made this determination, then act accordingly ”start the kanban or develop an inventory plan. Figure 7-2 shows an example of an inventory assessment for our ten-part number kanban.
Figure 7-2: Startup Inventory Assessment.
As an alternate strategy, if you do not have sufficient inventory, then you can opt to manage the initial kanban production. If you select this option, then make it short term. While this option is not desirable in the long term , it lets you get started with kanban.
When you manage the initial kanban production, you essentially set the sequence and the schedule of the production process using the kanban signals themselves . You basically create your own visual production schedule.
Although this is not an ideal strategy, in the short term it allows you to get the operators, material handlers, and any other participants using the kanban design. We only recommend this strategy when your kanban has goals other than just inventory reduction, goals that can't be achieved until you start the kanban. Examples of such goals might include creating flow between workcells or creating a product rotation system.
If you decide to manage the initial production, then make sure you have a plan for going into autonomous operations. Set a date and time that you communicate to everyone. When that date and time arrives, then let the kanban go ”don't let the operators hang onto the crutch and don't let the schedulers nurse them along!!
There is one last little inventory item to check before going live: the arrival of the raw materials . Make sure that their arrivals do not impact the start of the kanban. As with the production inventory, make the appropriate decisions once you have the data.